Dirty Dancing is back (and we’re loving it)!
The famous Patrick Swayze film of the 80’s, waltzed back into Manchester last night, to a room filled with predominantly females, and all round die-hard Dirty Dancing fans, who certainly weren’t disappointed.
Set in the 60’s, the stage show sees 17-year-old Frances “Baby” Houseman at Kellerman’s holiday camp with her family. After befriending the staff, she quickly finds herself developing a crush on the gorgeous dance instructor, Johnny Castle (played famously by Patrick Swayze in the film). When Johnny’s dance partner, Penny, has to miss an important performance, Baby gets thrown in at the deep end and steps in. The rest is history.
Adapting a well-known classic such as this one onto stage seems like a mammoth task, but in this instance it certainly paid off. The show is an almost seamless copy of the film; from the music to the costumes and not forgetting those iconic film quotes.
From, ‘come here lover boy,’ to ‘I carried a watermelon,’ this show has it all. But nothing got a bigger reaction from the audience in Manchester than, ‘Nobody puts Baby in a corner’, which got more squeals of delight than the numerous times that Lewis Griffiths (Johnny) took his top off – it even had some people jumping out of their seats!
Griffiths seriously was a force to be reckoned with throughout the entire show, as he played the moody, and at times mean, Johnny Castle. Leaping and spinning his way across the stage, the audience were exhausted just watching him. With his smoldering looks, and athletic body (that certainly didn’t go amiss), he was the perfect person for the role and lived up to the memory of Swayze.
Katie Eccles took on the lead role of “Baby,” skilfully portraying the character’s journey from a naïve teenager, that can barely put one foot in front of the other, to a mature and raunchy dancer. As suspected the dancing majorly outweighed the acting, but when you’re being flung into the air like a rag doll and your head is millimeters away from the ground, Eccles can be forgiven.
The show’s set design is very cleverly constructed with a revolving stage that allows each scene to flow seamlessly from one to the other. The use of lighting and sound effects were also key factors within the show – a clap of thunder and the use of strobe lighting transported us into a thunder storm, a clever device to lead us into the famous lake scene.
A projection of a lake is used for the scene were Johnny is teaching Baby that all important lift, a true moment in the film that captures the couple’s relationship. However, whether or not this was the intention, in the show this scene is turned into a more comical feature. Admittedly, it seems somewhat difficult to portray a lift in water, without there actually being any water.
The show is filled with all the iconic songs from the film’s soundtrack, including “Hungry Eyes”, “Hey! Baby” and “Love Man” with the powerhouse Sophia Mackay astounding the audience by belting out song after song with such ease. A special mention must also go to Carlie Milner who played a perfect Penny Johnson, with legs that seemed to go on for days and awe-inspiring flexibility that made the women in the audience green with envy.
From catchy music that we all know and love, to thrilling dance moves, and sizzling sexiness, this show is the definition of a feel good show. There’s no doubt that you’ll leave with a smile on your face and humming the songs in your head for at least the next few days.
Rightfully greeted with a standing ovation, the entire cast really did look like they were having ‘the time of their lives!’
Dirty Dancing runs at the Palace Theatre, Manchester until 22nd July.
Review by Opening Night guest writer Francesca Eagleton
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